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The state's handling of Unisys defies logic

Sometimes it's hard to sort through all the rhetoric and find the truth. I spend a lot of time wishing Diogenes and his lamp would put in an appearance in Tallahassee.

Last week when the Agency for Health Care Administration found itself in the midst of yet another Unisys/Medicaid scandal, Secretary Doug Cook quickly tried to put out the fire.

Two employees at Unisys have now been arrested in two different bush league schemes to bilk the state's Medicaid system out of money. The first one, Darien Reynolds, was caught last September after he and his sister tried to cash checks worth almost $400,000. They actually got away with more than $260,000 and might be doing it yet if an alert bank teller in Jacksonville hadn't raised questions about an altered date on one of the checks.

Reynolds pleaded guilty last week and agreed to cooperate in an ongoing investigation of Unisys.

Last week another employee in the same division of Unisys was arrested after the Florida Department of Law Enforcement caught him and others yet to be named bilking the fund of more than $20-million. He did it by changing the addresses of doctors who had not submitted bills in years and sending checks to mail drops.

Some of the money went to Colombia. We can all guess what it purchased. These are not the things that give you confidence in government.

All of this comes on the heels of court rulings that are likely to force the state to cough up more than $600-million to pay doctors who have not been paid in accordance with federal law.

Add in the remarkable inability of Unisys to handle the administration of an employee insurance program, fouling up the lives of thousands of state employees, and you can see a pattern here.

You can imagine how fast Cook _ the man behind these contracts _ was swimming last week to stay ahead of the sharks.

First he applauded the arrest, pausing to note that his agency helped investigate the case. That part is true.

Then Cook said his agency has fixed the problem. It has required confirmation when doctors change their addresses and made background checks of all Unisys employees with access to finance and banking systems.

On Wednesday, I asked the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for all letters and background check information on the Unisys employees. On Thursday, FDLE Commissioner Tim Moore discovered no checks were ever made.

Cook's deputies say that they sent the names to Bob Cummings, deputy director at FDLE, last October and that Cummings told them none had records. Cummings says he received no such request, although FDLE has checked thousands of other names for the agency _ doctors and other health care providers approved to receive Medicaid. Those checks were made after a statewide grand jury pounded on Cook for doing too little to halt rampant Medicaid fraud.

Just to be sure, FDLE checked its own files and discovered that the eight names in question had not been checked through its computer system. So Friday as Cook's agency struggled to answer my questions, it sent the list over to FDLE and got them checked. Thankfully, none of them have records.

Tom Wallace, deputy director at the health care agency, says he has a distinct memory of giving the list to Cummings and getting a call back from Cummings saying FDLE found no record.

Cummings says he had never seen the list of names until Wallace sent it to him Friday.

There is much that is wrong with how the state handled these contracts with Unisys. The contract does not require background checks of the people handling millions of dollars in claims.

Perhaps the statewide grand jury that has spent the last year looking at Medicaid fraud and problems with Unisys will one day tell us why.

Or maybe Diogenes will bring his lamp.